Thursday 14 October 2021

A good read for a dark and stormy night

The Small Hand Driving back from visiting a wealthy client in the south of England, Adam Snow takes a wrong turn and finds himself at the gate of a deserted house with an overgrown garden that used to be open to the public. As he stands in the silent dusk he "felt a small hand creep into my right one". So begins Susan Hill's ghost story, The Small Hand.

Although it's not specified, the story is set in the late 20th century, with cars, emails and regular flights to foreign countries. And yet it has the feel of something written by M.R. James. Adam is a dealer in antiquarian books and manuscripts, and for his client, Sir Edgar Merriman, he makes a journey to a remote monastery in France.

The tension gradually builds as Adam narrates his own story, often telling us "I ought to have turned back then" and "I should have gone back then", or telling himself lamely, "Surely nothing bad could happen to me here". Something bad obviously does happen and there are sufficient clues for the alert reader to guess how the owner of the small hand died and why its spirit remains in the world. Nevertheless, it's a good read for a dark and stormy night.

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